How OkCupid Changed the Way Society Looks at Dating Millennials Across the World

How OkCupid Changed the Way Society Looks at Dating Millennials Across the WorldOkCupid
  • OkCupid has been in the dating industry for the past 15 years and has seen the landscape evolving quite closely
  • In the last few years, OkCupid observed that millennials are seeking a meaningful relationship with a like-minded partner to share their beliefs. ‘The new s*x appeal is centered around questions like did you vote, and would you stand up for gender equality’
  • Melissa Hobley of OkCupid tells us how they factor these data points into marketing campaigns, the importance of being fearless as a brand, and how OkCupid survived without a CMO for 13 years of its existence

In an era when millennials get a lot of flak for being superficial, self-obsessed, and selfie-driven, the data points on OkCupid reveal quite the opposite. The young generation is now looking for meaningful relationships with a like-minded partner to celebrate and share their values, beliefs and quirks, says Melissa Hobley, Global CMO, OkCupid. And it is not just in the US; the entire dating landscape is changing.

“We have a question people can answer on their profiles: "Would you prefer great s*x or sane politics?" We've been around a long time, so we know it's always been "great s*x" in the US. Always. But last year, in certain cities within certain age groups, you see a shift. So in San Francisco with young women, now they want sane politics over great s*x. In India that conversation shift is about whether two people in love need to get married (surprise- a majority of people don’t think marriage is a necessity for people in love). What I think is so beautiful is how much this group of individuals care about some of the things going on in the world and the role that they want to play in finding their person,” she adds.

Making the Right Noise With the Best Campaigns Across the World

It was last year that OkCupid broke its dry spell from marketing its product. Under Hobley, OkCupid created the iconic ‘DTF’ (Down to Fu*k) ads and replaced the "F" word, twisting the meaning around with what millennials truly resonate with.

While the dating app faced some cultural challenges when it launched its international campaign in different countries, that did not shake its spirit. The ‘DTF’ ads were banned in some markets for being ‘too provocative’ and depictions of same-sex couples was not taken well by anti-pride communities.

“I haven’t been here long enough to take credit for this, but OkCupid has a legacy of taking a stand on social issues over the last fifteen years. For instance, we were the first to create an actual workable solution if you identify as non-binary, and doing that in a dating app is challenging - it’s almost like building the Empire State Building and then changing the plumbing! There’s no business case that said you will ever recoup the cost, time, or energy. So our legacy and history really enabled us to say that this was the right thing to do,” shares Hobley.

In India, OkCupid’s Find My Kind also aimed at changing the course of conversation around how the society sees millennials. To them, freedom of choice is non-negotiable, and the campaign overturns decades of patriarchal values and rigid gender roles with thoughtfulness and quirks.

The campaign draws insight from its user responses to questions on the app. An overwhelming 92% said that they feel their values vastly differ from their parents, and close to 72% do not believe they echo their friends’ preferences either, clearly establishing them as a generation that values what they want, not what others want for them.

The data further revealed that 67% would rather find a meaningful relationship in the serendipity of a dating app than have friends or family arrange a set up. Surprisingly, 68% don’t even believe marriage is mandatory for people in love.

While OkCupid’s international campaign ‘DTF” raised some eyebrows, made a few people uncomfortable and spurred a change, India’s ‘Find My Kind’ was rather subtle. Telling us the reason behind this dichotomy, Hobley said, “At OkCupid, we look at the relevance of stories as we tell them and reflect our users’ stories. These campaigns pushback against the conditioning of needing to compromise and letting other people choose the kind of relationship you should spend a large part of your life in. For #FindMyKind, we wanted to echo the outlook of the Indian millennial and give voice to their struggle against society. Across each activation, from the TVC to the all-woman comedy tour, the campaign hashtag makes a social and political statement, challenging generations of societal expectations in a movement to champion freedom of choice.”

Surviving without a CMO and Advertising

Founded in 2004, two years after Tinder came into existence, OkCupid refrained from advertising and getting a designated marketing professional on-board for a long time. Tinder’s ‘Single, not sorry’ campaign or Bumble’s huge launch into the market did not scare them either. Hobley says their strong product and word-of-mouth was doing the magic for them.

“Most of the early work was focused on the product itself and making the questions that inform the algorithm meaningful to users,” said Hobley.

Taking pride in OkCupid’s journey, Hobley further shares, “OkCupid was designed to allow potential daters the chance to find out as much as possible about their match, revealing the person behind the profile. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of couples who found a lasting relationship on OkCupid since it was founded in 2004. These stories are organic and a marketer's dream taking OkCupid from a dot-com to an app - it’s the strength of product. These authentic stories continue to be the reason OkCupid is one of the most popular dating apps worldwide after nearly two decades of being conceptualized.”

Plan Ahead

Hobley denied to share OkCupid’s investment and revenue numbers but said that they measure their success rate in terms of meaningful connections that are formed on their platform every year.

“OkCupid has always measured its success in the stories we receive from our users of their meaningful connections. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people find meaningful connections after years of being told to be everything but themselves in a quest for love. In the next three years, we’ll continue to measure success on those terms.”

In India, OkCupid received a tremendous amount of love for its first campaign and it will continue being an important country for the platform.

“Find My Kind is our first 360 degree brand campaign and the response has been incredible. India will continue to be an important geography for us with energy focused on building a superior product and encouraging a community of kindness, where you can celebrate your story and find meaningful matches through it,” says Hobley.

Going forward, OkCupid will continue reminding what millennials are capable of via their strong campaigns.

“As the dating scenario evolves worldwide and more people turn to dating apps to find love and companionship, we will also see society evolve into one that is more accepting of the reality that there is more to a person than their picture, and that millennials are capable of asking for what they want up-front, and getting it at the tips of their fingers. We will continue supporting and empowering women with a safe, private and inclusive space where they can build meaningful connections and make their own choices with confidence,” said Hobley.
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